Vaping in the Workplace
The Government recently published an updated Tobacco Control Plan, in which it has set itself the target of reducing smoking by adults from 15.5% to 12% by 2022. Whilst there is a raft of “smoke free” legislation to achieve this aim, one of the approaches that the Government recognises as a safer alternative to smoking is the use of e-cigarettes (vaping).
With the cost to business estimated to be in the region of £5.3 billion a year through increased absences and smoking breaks, employers should be keen to champion a reduction of smokers in their workforce and, as one aspect of this, may want to reconsider their approach to vaping by staff.
Public Health England has published a guide, “Use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces: Advice to inform evidence-based policy making”, to assist organisations in developing their own policies. As the document points out, policies and practice on vaping in public places and workplaces are evolving all the time and will continue to do so as new evidence emerges. It is therefore important that employers keep their policies under regular review to take this into account as well as any changes in the regulatory environment.
What does this mean for businesses?
Employers may wish to deal with smoking and vaping separately in their policies. Public Health England advocates making a clear distinction between the two and, for example, avoiding the use of smoking terminology in the context of vaping.
When drafting a vaping policy, employers should conduct a risk assessment to assist in deciding what stance to take.
What are the key points to consider when undertaking such an assessment?
- Vaping is not covered by smoke free legislation and employers will not be penalised for allowing vaping in the workplace. With that in mind, it would be prudent to produce a separate vaping policy.
- Consider the effects on non-users. Whilst current research suggests that there are negligible effects of second hand vapour, the smell and sight of vapour in the workplace may become a nuisance or distraction for colleagues.
- Consider the effect on your organisation. For example, will vaping in the workplace undermine the professional atmosphere of the workplace or are there other commercial considerations that need to be considered?
- What are the wider implications of being seen to permit vaping? For example, educational organisations in child or youth settings may wish to ban vaping on site so that children do not witness staff vaping. Conversely, those companies in the hospitality or casino/gambling sectors may choose to welcome vaping on their premises as customers who vape may feel more comfortable in such an environment, with associated benefits in terms of revenue..
- Employers who are health conscious may wish to promote vaping as an alternate to smoking by offering a softer policy compared to their smoking policy. For example, a vaping room would not be prohibited under legislation and may convince smokers to use e-cigarettes especially as we approach winter when standing outside will become a less attractive prospect.
For more information updating your workplace policies or any other employment related matter, please contact a member of the Employment Team